UW program hopes to integrate Web with courses

In an attempt to create a more effective University Writing Program, administrators are increasing recruitment of undergraduate and graduate assistants, and pushing for more integration of the Internet with courses.

UW’s development program involves the training and employment of undergraduate and graduate “preceptors.” The other half of the initiative is an effort to work to increase the number of hybrid courses, UW courses that heavily use Internet resources such as online discussions.

“We want everyone to be as good a writer as he or she can possibly be,” said Melinda Knight, executive director of the University Writing Program.

This is the first year the University has used the preceptor position, a role Knight likened to that of an apprentice. Currently, nine undergraduates and four graduate students are serving as assistants to professors in writing in the discipline classes, discipline-specific courses for students who have already taken the more general University Writing 20. Knight hopes that UW will employ up to 15 undergraduate preceptors next fall and enroll more graduate preceptors in the four- to five-semester program.

Preceptors’ responsibility pertains to the writing portion of the course and includes coaching and suggesting ideas for improvement to students, Knight said.

The program for graduate-level preceptors will produce experienced and fully trained teachers, Knight said. Graduate preceptors take charge of a class upon completion of the training program, which takes four to five semesters. Preceptor candidates are students enrolled in Ph.D programs at GW who are nominated by their departments and apply from a highly competitive pool, Knight said. Preceptors enrolled in the program undergo extensive training through a class Knight teaches: participation in peer editing and coaching at the GW Writing Center, assistance in the WID program and ultimately command of their own UW20 class.

“(The program) provides a way for me as a Ph.D student to gain experience,” said Ashley Denham, a member of the inaugural class of graduate preceptors. Denham and three other graduate preceptors will teach their first UW20 course in spring 2007.

Hybrid classes became part of UW last fall, and have grown to include up to 12 of the offered courses; the program will be pushing to make even more courses hybrid classes. UW20 will also begin as an online distance-learning program for this first time this summer. Unlike traditional classes that occasionally use online Web logs or Blackboard, in hybrid classes Internet postings on message boards or the posting of papers online are required parts of the classes.

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